Tuesday, 22 August 2017
1. Discover American Pale Ale and IPA, be amazed by how much flavour it has compared to the industrially-produced and heavily-advertised lowest common denominator swill you’ve been drinking, and copy it verbatim. This is how most craft beer movements start.
1a. Ditto, but with British or Belgian ales.
2. Finally realise that if you’re just going to copy the Americans you probably can’t win – the real thing is better and has economies of scale. Plus it’s increasingly available everywhere, especially as good US breweries sell out to (or ‘partner with’) multinationals who already have strong distribution networks. Your only real advantage is local provenance, so you substitute local ingredients, for example to produce a German IPA or an Italian Saison.
3. Try to come up with a pretentious twist – adding pink peppercorns, say, or ageing in Tequila barrels. Of course, there’s a good chance other small brewers will also think of it, in which case it’ll be passé even before it hits the shelves. Worse, a few of the regional brewers are pretty fast to copy this sort of thing, again with better economies of scale and distribution channels. Still, if you’re the kind who rarely brews the same thing twice you’ll be onto a new fashion by then.
4. Rediscover – or in extreme cases, invent – local beer styles or traditions, then revive them and give them a ‘modern twist’. Sour Altbiers, cloying cherry beers, and souped-up Grodziskies.
5. Finally realise that what most people want is what they already know, but that some of them are willing to pay for better quality – or for a version with a better, more fashionable image. For example, many German craft brewers grew up in opposition to fizzy, bright yellow, industrially-produced ‘TV beer’, with murky ales becoming a signifier of rebellious authenticity. It’s ironic then that quite a few of them are now making Craft Pils, or Craft Lagerbier.
Have I missed any stages?
Sunday, 6 August 2017
It’s quite a change from the first LCBF events when there was cask, but nowhere near as prominently. Given the major part real ale plays in London brewing, a big cask presence is entirely fitting – no, entirely necessary!
It’s also been the first public outing for a project I heard about in confidence a few weeks ago – Fuller’s & Friends. Fuller’s brewers have been working with colleagues from around the country on a new set of collaboration brews. So far we’ve seen four of what I’m told will be six beers:
#1 – Flora & The Griffin, a 7.4% rye ale, collaboration with Thornbridge.
#2 – Rebirth, 6% “the original 1971 ESB reborn”, a collaboration with Moor Beer.
#3 – Big Smoke, a 7% smoked Porter with Hardknott.
#4 – Matariki, a 5.5% New Zealand Saison with Marble.
Two more to come, then – possibly during today’s final LCBF session. Sadly, I’ve neither a ticket nor the time to get over there this afternoon, but I’m hoping and expecting that all will also be on draught at this week’s Great British Beer Festival. My information is they will then be bottled and sold as a package.
Edited Addendum: Sadly I didn't see any of them at GBBF, but there's also visits from Cloudwater and Fourpure mentioned now on Fuller's Twitter feed, so I guess they are the 'missing' two that'll make it six.
More usefully, I've now heard from a second source that the six-pack will be sold exclusively through Waitrose. True or false, my Fuller's friends?
Wednesday, 2 August 2017
The anchor events are of course CAMRA's huge Great British Beer Festival from Tues 8th to Sat 12th. As usual this is mainly British real ale, but with the addition of foreign real ale and bottled beers, plus English wines and ciders.
Before that though, there's the London Craft Beer Festival from Fri 4th to Sun 6th in Shoreditch - this is a smaller event but more focused, with 45 breweries, many of them bringing new brews and serving them themselves.
A new thing this year (at least, I think it's new) is the beer embassies. Hosted at various venues around the city they will show off some of the best beers - both modern and trad - from elsewhere, for example the USA, Germany and Scandinavia. There's also a load of collaborative brews and other new beers around, including a competition where each of London's top beer stores collaborated with a local brewer on a brew.
For the full programme pick up a printed copy (as seen here) from one of the venues, or visit the London Beer City website.